This article contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6. You can check out our thoughts on the previous season by clicking these words.
This is it for me. This is the point when Game of Thrones becomes something completely different. It’s the same characters that we know and love/hate and it’s still well-plotted, but it’s all so rushed. Previous seasons had taken their time to build to a conclusion and it feels more satisfying as a result. From Season 6 onwards I always got the feeling that we are still building to the same conclusions, but we’re rushing towards the finish line instead of enjoying the journey. The geography of Westeros seems to go out of the window, as characters disappear and reappear wherever they need to be. There’s a lot more ‘tell don’t show’ in this season, as characters are prone to spouting an unreasonable amount of exposition to keep things moving. There’s also a nagging feeling that while the series is telling the same story it’s skimping on things along the way.
It was quite nice re-watching Game of Thrones Season 6 actually knowing what was happening; the first time around I had spent a whole summer agonizing over whether Jon Snow was going to come back from the dead and the internet was focused squarely on Kit Harrington’s hair. In retrospect 2016 was a more innocent time, all we had to worry about was whether Kit Harrington got a haircut, because if he didn’t crop those gorgeous locks then it was a surefire sign that the showrunners were lying and Jon Snow would be back on our screens.
I still can’t decide whether saving Jon’s resurrection until Episode 2 is actually a great move or incredibly frustrating. I think on a repeat viewing I’m leaning towards the former, especially when I haven’t been waiting to find out about Snow’s mortality for nearly a year.
The first episode was something that felt like a disappointment first time around, I was so whipped into a frenzy by Kit Harrington Hair Watch that anything but Jon’s rise from the grave was always going to be a disappointment. Third time around I really liked some of the character work in the episode. The focus on Melisandre, while shocking first time around, felt like a rare moment of character work that is a bit lacking from here on out. I’ve found that the whole question of faith and belief is one that keeps coming back in Game of Thrones and nowhere more than here. Throughout the series to date, Melisandre has been a confident character who was so sure of herself and her god. The opening episode shows her stripped of her faith (and everything else) to the point that it really does make you think she couldn’t resurrect Jon even if she wanted to.
When he finally does come back it’s still not really what I was expecting. Everything we’re told about resurrection in the series so far is that there isn’t anything waiting for us, and that each time you come back you change a little bit. I was hoping to see a different side to Jon Snow when he returned to the land of the living but instead, it seems like more of the same. I think it could have been a really interesting thing to explore, that while he might be resurrected he’s lost something of himself along the way. Although I suppose there is an argument to be made that Jon Snow wouldn’t normally execute a child even if he had stabbed him in the heart, so perhaps I’m barking up the wrong weirwood tree.
I don’t think I realised just how much I missed Bran Stark until I went a whole season without seeing him. He’s much taller, of course, and he’s been busy learning about being a three-eyed raven. Although in retrospect this feels like an excuse to make things take a turn for Lost and use flashbacks to fill in some gaps, like what really happened at the Tower of Joy. It’s a great action sequence and it shows just how history can be skewed by the perspective of who is telling the story. It’s a scene that we get to revisit over the course of the season until we finally get confirmation of the theory every fan had been waiting for… R+L=J.
The best thing about Game of Thrones Season 6 was that it felt like a welcome relief this time around, after the unrelenting bleakness of Season 5. After four or five seasons of slow burn, it is actually nice to get a real run of payoffs, one after the other.
Arya finally returns to Westeros from her summer abroad and wastes no time in putting her skills to work. It seems like it wasn’t just the Faceless Men that she was listening to but also Hotpie’s pro-baking tips as she finally takes revenge on the Frey’s in the most Sweeney Todd way possible.
Daenerys finally gets her hands on the Khalasar that she was promised, but I think it’s fair to say that she doesn’t get given them; she takes them with fire. Her favourite way possible. There are definitely a lot of hints that Daenerys shares her father’s love of fire and also a small taste of his cruel streak that has left me wondering whether she might not actually become the answer to Westeros’ prayers. Still, her setting fire to the Khals and taking charge of all of the Dothraki is rather satisfying. Season 6 is also the point where she finally sets sail to Westeros after nearly six full seasons of stomping around in Essos.
I think the one thing that I can’t forgive this season for is how it treats Tyrion. He goes from being the smartest man in the room to someone who consistently makes terrible decisions. It’s shown time after time that everything he tries in Meereen fails in a spectacular fashion. I actively watched this time around to see if he makes a single good decision and he really doesn’t. I’m not quite sure why Daenerys ends up making him the Hand of the Queen given how bad his interview was.
Speaking of Lannisters, Cersei continues her march towards madness by blowing up King’s Landing and pretty much all of her enemies in one single wildfire-inspired explosion. It’s a pretty spectacular moment and an utterly diabolical plan all set to my favourite piece of music in the entire series (‘In the Light of the Seven’). It’s one of the most extreme reset buttons in TV history.
Of course, I can’t talk about Game of Thrones Season 6 without mentioning ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ and what is one of the best battles in Game of Thrones history. While Seasons 6, 7 and 8 might be racing towards the finish line, they also have a much higher budget and it’s all on the screen. Watching this again I was struck by just how good it was, and it’s a battle that a Hollywood blockbuster would be proud of. It’s different to a lot of battles that I’ve seen on TV or on the big screen before because it feels so kinetic. As cliched as it sounds, you feel like you’re there on that battlefield, and it’s not glorious or dramatic. It’s dirty, loud and terrifying. There’s an incredible sense of claustrophobia towards the end of the battle that made me struggle to breathe. The other huge point to the Battle of the Bastards is that we finally get to say goodbye to cartoon supervillain Ramsay Snow/Bolton, although not without him killing Wun Wun first.
Ramsay’s death is horrible, and in many ways, it’s like Joffrey in that no matter how horrible the character was nobody really deserved to die like that. It does highlight just how much Sansa has had to grow up in the last few years and just how much she’s adapted to survive. Although I could have done without the manufactured tension between Jon and Sansa this year.
I nearly forgot ‘hold the door’, how could I forget ‘hold the door’? I’ve already made a Lost comparison in this article but the episode ‘The Door’ feels like Game of Thrones’ answer to Lost‘s ‘The Constant’ as we bounce backwards and forwards in time and we get to see Hodor’s origin story. Even though I’ve seen it a few times before it still has the power to be utterly devastating. Poor Willis was just a mild-mannered stable boy until Bran’s time-hopping warging fried his brain.
Game of Thrones Season 6 is a bit of a rollercoaster ride. It’s the run up to the finish line as things really start to pick up momentum, until it becomes the unstoppable juggernaut of Season 7 (and hopefully Season 8).
Most awkward dinner: Sam introducing his wildling lover to his family. Sure his sister and mum are nice enough but his brother Dickon is a dick and his dad is kind of racist.
Most artistic use of blood: Wun Wun smashing a member of the Night’s Watch all over the walls of Castle Black. Jackson Pollock couldn’t have done any better, big guy.
Worst death: I still can’t get over the way that Osha is killed off. She’s shown time and time again throughout the series how tough and self-aware she is. She’s survived so much and proved herself to be a perceptive and capable fighter but of course, Ramsay always has the upper hand.
Biggest waste of a character: We only get a fleeting glimpse of Areo Hotah, the enormous guy with an axe in Dorne, and he seems like he’d be so much fun, but then he gets stabbed and that’s it.
Best travelling companion: Game of Thrones does double acts very well and this season is no exception. Perhaps one of my favourite double acts is Bronn and Jaime and it all starts here really, as the two of them take a trip to Dorne. I could watch Jaime and Bronn travel the countryside, getting into scrapes and singing bawdy songs as an entire spin-off series.
Worst escape from a baddie: Why the hell did no-one ever teach Rickon to run serpentine?
Monster of the week: Euron Greyjoy
Most haunting line: HOLD THE DOOR
Oli has been writing for Ready Steady Cut since November 2017. He has a PhD in Computer Science and he writes articles about TV, film and, very occasionally, science.